This time on C+C Magic Factory, we’ll be reviewing the Commander 2013 deck, Evasive Maneuvers.
Here’s a review of the grading system we’ll be using. The first grade for each card is a Cube grade, the second, a Commander grade.
[A+]: First-pick card on power level alone or tier 1 for associated archetype(s).
[A]: High powered alone or in the context of 2 or more archetypes.
[B]: High powered in the context of one archetype.
[C]: Role-filler in a niche archetype or mid-powered utility card.
[D]: Might see play in large or restricted lists (e.g. peasant)
[F]: Not playable in cube.
[A+]: Best in Class. These cards are at the top of the list for any deck wanting the effect.
[A]: Excellent card according to two or more of: power level, size-of-effect, card interaction, or politics.
[B]: Excellent card according to one of: power level, size-of-effect, card interaction, or politics.
[C]: Solid role-filler or theme supporter.
[D]: Playable, but better options exist.
[F]: A knife at a gun fight.
Bant Deck: Evasive Maneuvers
Similar to Mind Seize, Evasive Maneuvers offers a very solid trio of commanders. While Rubinia may be the least exciting of the bunch, she is still a very well-selected Legends reprint that can woman the helm of a goodstuff deck, since the ability to take the best creature at the table will always be relevant. The other two generals present some fun themes for the EDH deck builder to exploit. Roon has two modes: beat your face with commander damage or slide guys for value. He is aggressively costed, has a nice rhino-sized body and his rules text sings with synergy. While most players in my groups have built Roon to grind value with Reveillark and friends, one has gone the Voltron route and made the swap with Rafiq of the Many as his Bant commander. Though he doesn’t threaten as much damage, Roon still loves a Finest Hour. EDH isn’t the only place where Roon is tagging in for Rafiq, either. In my cube, Roon is getting a shot at my lonely Bant slot since blink.dec is a very real archetype in most rare cubes. I like my shard cards to be high-impact, though in cubes that just want the best, Roon may not compete with Bant Charm for the top slot.
Derevi is perhaps the new commander I’m most excited to brew with, but her puzzle is not one that’s easily solved. The precon clearly emphasizes untapping token generators for Fibonacci-esque value with inclusions like Kazandu Tuskcaller and Presence of Gond, but the fun does not stop there. Other applications include generating stupid amounts of combat step-mana, trying to go infinite with her alternate cost and a sacrifice outlet (seems difficult), or simply being annoying and tapping down lands and blockers in a multiplayer game. However, what got the attention of my inner griefer was the idea of pairing her with Winter Orb and Stasis to get all the zero-sum fun. While currently much less popular than Roon, I feel Derevi may have a longer shelf life and inspire much more variety. (Since the first writing of this section, Derevi has been banned in 1v1 French Commander.)
Angel of Finality [D-]/[C+]
With Bojuka Bog being one of the most played cards in EDH, any card with the same rider must be taken seriously. The C+ may seem low, but I feel this is the highest grade that can be given for a piece of disruption. Bojuka Bog, Nihil Spellbomb, and Relic of Progenitus are all basically free; Angel of Finality costs a card but the 3/4 flyer is free. Decks that want this either can’t deal with exiling their own ‘yard, can reuse the effect, or come close to wanting a 3/4 flyer for 4 mana. How important this card is for you comes down to your meta and how many Karador/Mimeoplasm/Sheoldred shenanigans you can expect to see.
Bane of Progress [F+]/[A]
I have a Yosei, the Morning Star artifact deck that folds to Akroma’s Vengeance or Austere Command. I can now add Bane of Progress to that list of foils. Six-mana mass Naturalizes are already quite playable in EDH and this is perhaps the best yet, being stapled to a creature and being in the best color to ramp it out without bemoaning the effect. With a base-two power, it even comes back with Reveillark! That Bane will usually represent an on-curve green fatty once the dust settles is gravy. This card has excellent casual appeal and is the sort of card that can find a home in multiple decks, especially now that Sylvan Primordial got sent packing.
The closest comparison in cube is to cards like Acidic Slime or Mold Shambler. Even though the effect is desirable, the cheaper options will get played because Bane will so rarely hit more than on target and can’t destroy planeswalkers or land.
Curse of the Forsaken [F]/[D]
See Eternal Bargain review.
Curse of Inertia [F]/[D-]
See Mind Seize review.
Curse of Predation [A]/[C]
See Power Hungry review.
Darksteel Mutation [D]/[C]
See Eternal Bargain review.
Diviner Spirit [F]/[D]
See Mind Seize review.
Djinn of Infinite Deceits [F]/[C]
Djinn seems custom-tailored to this deck as packaged, synergizing with Derevi and all the token-producers. With Roon, you can even takesy-backsies the gifted creature! The effect is fun, powerful, and primed for abuse, but sits on a slow and expensive body. Gilded Drake is more powerful, especially in Cube, but Djinn is repeatable all on his own and is easier on the wallet.
See Power Hungry review.
Surveyor’s Scope [F]/[C]
If Surveyor’s Scope was a guaranteed Rampant Growth for two in 1v1, it would be a very good card, since Cube decks love mana rocks and many EDH decks run green to gain access to the effect. Sadly, the behind-by-two-lands clause makes this unplayable in Cube and asks something of your deck construction in EDH. Between bounce lands, borderposts, and activating the scope with a fetch on the stack, it is fairly easy to get your card back and in multiplayer games the best case is ridiculous. However, you really want to be playing multiplayer to run this in your deck, since signets are much more reliable when it comes to ramping for 1.
Tempt with Glory [F]/[D-]
Easily the worst Tempting Offer card, Tempt with Glory has a prohibitive mana cost in addition to being narrow in application. As such, it will be staying out of cubes whether or not they support token strategies. Costing twice Curse of Predation, you would really have to want redundancy of anthems to include this offer, at which point it will never get accepted.
Unexpectedly Absent [A-]/[C+]
While only a utility card, Unexpectedly Absent is about as good as it gets. In Commander, the value comes from being able to tuck a problematic commander or strategic lynchpin. While the versatility is great, the card only shines if you can pay a large enough X to get rid of the problem for real or catch your opponent with a shuffle trigger on the stack, since the tempo matters less. In Cube or 1v1, this card is excellent. Usually X will be 0, which is fine, since this card is all about the tempo blowouts by being able to hit an equipment or extra blocker mid-combat or reset a near-ultimate planeswalker with no card disadvantage. Even though Unexpectedly Absent has not yet been adopted in Legacy, this card is the third most powerful single card in Commander 2013 after True-Name Nemesis and Toxic Deluge. Since the rest of the deck has good value, look to pick these up in trade as they may be relatively undervalued.
Azami, Lady of Scrolls [F]/[B-]
Unplayable in Cube for a variety of reasons, Azami is the go-to commander for mono-blue control decks, though Thassa, God of the Sea gives players another solid option. Prior to this reprint, Azami was a few dollars, so seeing her here adds a little more value to this precon. Despite being a card players hate to see across the table, there are a couple Azami decks in my groups. The allure of draw-go-draw-draw is too sweet to ignore for some.
Basalt Monolith [B-]/[C+]
While ramping to seven mana on turn four is not as broken as the six on turn three that Basalt’s grim brother provides, Basalt Monolith still powers some broken plays in both 40 and 100-card formats. In addition to ramping, Monolith goes infinite with Wake Thrasher, an interaction featured in the MTGO cube. The only strike against Basalt Monolith is that it’s worse at ramping than Sol Ring, Mana Vault, Grim Monolith, Worn Powerstone, and Thran Dynamo. That said, all of those cards have availability issues within my groups, so the presence of a budget option is welcome.
Control Magic [B-]/[B]
The OG “take your guy” spell is back, with a black border and new art, something some cube owners care about. Control Magic is still in my 630-card unpowered cube and is doing a better job earning its stay of execution than Clone by virtue of being undercosted compared to modern options. What sells CM for EDH is that it fills the role of spot removal sans card disadvantage and snatching an opposing commander is one of the better ways of dealing with it. If your group runs a lot of enchantment removal or bounce, it gets worse, so plan accordingly.
Dungeon Geists [C]/[C-]
Dungeon Geists is on the cusp of inclusion for medium-to-large sized cubes due to competition in blue. As a very-good-but-fair value card, it’s card advantage until it’s not, which is less of a drawback in EDH than one might expect, since Geist and whatever it’s locking down are both likely dying to the same sweeper. What keeps it from seeing more play in 100-card decks is that the 3/3 body just doesn’t do enough on its own.
Flickering is a popular effect in both EDH and Cube, but in Commander, the effects must be repeatable to really make the cut. For example, Flickerwisp’s 3/1 evasive body can close out a game when players start at 20 life, but in EDH, the one-shot trigger isn’t breaking any game states and a 3/1 won’t get there. If the plan is to abuse ETB triggers, either go cheap (Cloudshift) or go big (Deadeye Navigator).
Karmic Guide [B+]/[A+]
Welcome to valuetown! Another inclusion with significant appeal for Cube, Commander, and collectors, Karmic Guide is excellent in some decks and quite good in others, justifying its pre-reprint $12 price tag. Together with Reveillark, it is the glue that holds together the blink archetype in Cube by having one of the best and most aggressively costed ETB triggers for casual formats. Though not as abstractly powerful as Reanimate, Karmic Guide is a better version of the effect for Commander by being abusive, bringing value to the table, and arriving at a point in the game when opponents may be out of answers.
Lu Xun, Scholar General [D+]/[C]
Though I don’t run the Scholar in my cube, the effect is cube-worthy, as can be seen by the inclusion of Thieving Magpie in the MTGO cube. Lu Xun is better than Magpie but worse than Shadowmage Infiltrator, since horsemanship is basically unblockable but not worth the extra mana. In Commander, Lu Xun is a perfectly reasonable four-drop, since he’ll always get through and the scratch is unlikely to incur the wrath of your opponents until he starts scratching with a sword. While there are better ways to keep the gas flowing, Lu Xun is a welcome inclusion here and will never be a brick in any deck running him.
Mirror Entity [B]/[B]
Mirror Entity’s primary use is to threaten lethal damage from a small cohort of creatures. In Commander, the cohort must be significantly larger, relegating the Entity mostly to weenie and token builds. Nevertheless, Mirror Entity is a high-impact three-drop that has many synergies with cards throughout Magic’s history, including part of an infinite combo (that sadly requires too many pieces for Cube).
Overall – Value:[A]/Playability:[C]
Though lacking a top-tier commander like Prossh (unless you count a banned Derevi) or an eternal card à la True-Name, Evasive Maneuvers is deep in playables. It has the most incentivizing rares, a great set of generals, high-caliber reprints, and a potential eternal staple in Unexpectedly Absent. The list is deep enough that there are notable cards like Murkfiend Liege and Thousand-Year Elixir that I left out of this review. Even one of its commanders is seeing play in Cube.
However, the deck suffers from the same difficulty that most of these precons do: the themes presented by the new commanders are too divergent. Half the deck is all about untapping for value and the other half wants to abuse ETB triggers, with only the commanders crossing themes. The best use of Evasive Maneuvers is to put it in your cube or turn it into two separate Bant builds, and luckily this precon offers a solid start to all of these options.
Next time, we’ll review the final Commander 2013 deck, Nature of the Beast.
Email: djkensai at gmail dot com
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